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Increased Police powers one step closer

Police are being given more powers to “crush the criminal masterminds” who are cashing in on illegal lifestyles.

Officers will now be able to strip criminals such as gun traffickers, drug dealers and loan sharks of their ill-gotten gains.

They will be able to seize cash found in the general execution of their duties when they have “reasonable grounds” to suspect the cash represents the proceeds of criminal conduct.

The Proceeds of Crime Amendment Act 2011 was unanimously passed in the Senate yesterday with all politicians agreeing that “cash funds crime”.

The cash seized from criminals will be used to educate the public about drugs and help rehabilitate addicts. It was stated that the public had nothing to worry about as the new law would specifically target those with criminal lifestyles.

Junior National Security Minister Jonathan Smith, who introduced the bill, said criminals had the ability to run what he called a ‘shadow economy’.

Sen Smith, who is a former police commissioner, stressed that the new law would not harass Joe Public or those with legitimate cash businesses.

He said: “This bill is designed to crush the criminal masterminds whose cash reserves fund violence and promote the misery of drugs and other illegal activities that consume our communities.

“It’s a relatively short bill, but the impact is enormous … It extends the powers police already have to seize cash”.

Shadow National Security Minister Michael Dunkley said he agreed with the crackdown on illicit behaviour, which he described as “an evil creeping more and more into the community”.

He said many criminals tended to stash their cash at home as banks were now asking lots of questions when new accounts were opened.

Sen Dunkley also raised concerns about police officers acting in an transparent and honest way. He asked for checks to be in place so that “cash is taken away in the appropriate manner”.

OBA Senator Kathy Michelmore said she fully supported the new law, but agreed there were “more opportunities for temptation” and “the issue of corrupt behaviour could occur”.

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Kim Wilson said the new law would remove all types of illegal activity where cash was exchanged, but stressed: “It’s not designed to prejudice members of the public”.

She added that it would help “police in the execution of their duties” and the proper safeguards, checks and balances would be in place.

Government Senator Cromwell Shakir said the new bill addressed the loopholes criminals tried to get through.

He said: “Continuing to strengthen the police will help them to deal with the very slick drug dealers who are making large amounts of money”.

Sen Shakir added that he hoped giving the police more powers would also encourage more people to value their work. He said as a young boy he had “misunderstood” the role of the police as intrusive rather than helpful.

Government Senator LaVerne Furbert said she’d “been around a while” and she remembered the days when cash was clean. She said it used to be “a beautiful Bermuda where people paid for houses with cash” but she added: “Not anymore, I really can’t understand why anyone would have $10,000 under the mattress”.

Independent Joan Dillas-Wright said it was “high-time” for this law as Bermuda was currently experiencing “some very, very difficult times with gun crime and drugs”.

She said: “We have to give the police as much support as we can. The need for this law has not been plucked out of the air, officers must have seen large amounts of cash lying around.

“This gives the police the power to do their jobs”.

Independent Senator Walwyn Hughes agreed that the innocent had nothing to worry about as “large amounts of cash doesn’t just appear in your home”.

Senator Jonathan Smith

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Published August 04, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 04, 2011 at 9:48 am)

Increased Police powers one step closer

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